“Library” Cataloging Experience

I thought that cataloging would be my jam. My calling. My future. This assumption, for better or worse, was based on one thing: my iTunes library. Ever since I can remember, I have been militant when it comes to organizing my music. I have carefully constructed playlists by genre (Country, Hip-Hop, Rock, etc.), but I also have some that are not quite so easily categorized, such as “Chill,” “Random,” “Strange,” and “Guitar Hero” (thank you, junior year of college). My basic cataloging method is as follows: For every song in each of my playlists, the “Genre” field in iTunes contains the name of the playlist that the song is in. That way, if a playlist gets accidentally deleted, or I can’t remember whether I put a song in “Strange” or “Chill,” I can easily figure out where it lives. It isn’t sophisticated or foolproof, but it forces me to make deliberate categorizing decisions and gives me peace of mind.

One thing that I love about my iTunes library is that many of the choices that I make are completely arbitrary, but they make sense in my head. And, if I stumble across something that seems misplaced, I can re-categorize it as I see fit. That’s all there is to cataloging, right? Shouldn’t I have been able to test out of the required GSLIS cataloging course? Well, not quite. It didn’t take long for me to discover that in a real library, cataloging doesn’t quite work that way.

It turns out that real library catalogers are also militant, but in the sense that they must follow the rules. Not their rules, the rules. Standards, classification schemes, and guidelines reign supreme. There is little to no flexibility in library cataloging, and nothing is arbitrary. I understand why this is the case – imagine the confusion and inconsistencies that would crop up if all catalogers did their own thing. No two people would catalog my iTunes library the same way, which makes it feel, well, special to me. I have my own standards, classification scheme, and guidelines, darn it.

That said, I’m glad to be learning about the intricacies of library cataloging, although I’m pretty sure that my true cataloging calling doesn’t extend any further than iTunes. But they don’t call it an iTunes library for nothing, right?

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